An introduction to medical malpractice reform would be incomplete without mentioning the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) 1999 report, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, which lists medical errors as the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. While much attention premiums, the media's recent interest in the application of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) tactics in medical malpractice cases has increased. The quest for a one-size-fits-all fix to rising health care costs has turned to ADR for guidance in the past, with hopes that binding arbitration and voluntary mediation would resolve the crisis. Recently, the search has unearthed a new and somewhat counterintuitive champion: the early settlement of potential malpractice claims through the combination of medical error disclosure and apology. The IOM's report recommends a strategy for improvement based on health care organizations' ability to learn "from errors by developing a nationwide... reporting system" and encouraging healthcare providers "to develop and participate in voluntary reporting systems." Introduced six years after the publication of IOM's recommendations, Senate Bill 1784, "The National Medical Error and Compensation (MEDiC) Act of 2005" stood the best chance of realizing the report's normative advice. The MEDiC Act, introduced by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, is modeled after several successful state programs that have effectively reduced the occurrence of medical errors while simultaneously reducing legal costs. The bill contains incentives for physicians to disclose medical errors to patients and participate in a national medical error reporting system. The remainder of this article will analyze the recurring problems inherent in the medical malpractice environment, explore a portion of ADR's impact on the reformation of this environment, and offer the MEDiC Act as ADR's contemporary solution for a more equitable and sustainable medical malpractice environment.
Grant Wood Geckeler,
The Clinton-Obama Approach to Medical Malpractice Reform: Reviving the Most Meaningful Features of Alternative Dispute Resolution,
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